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I’m in my early twenties and I’m dating a married guy who has been separated from his wife for almost a year. He is trying to get divorced, but she’s delaying it. We live in different cities, so we mostly talk by text and phone. I know it looks bad from the outside, but we have never been physical with each other and I know he’s the kind of guy I would love to be married to. I’ve dated other guys before and after my mission and this guy has the qualities I most admire. I’ve told my parents and my bishop about it and they are all encouraging me to break it off just because he’s still married. Yes, on paper he’s married, but he would be divorced if she would cooperate. I’m confused by everyone’s reactions. It feels right, especially because we’re respecting physical boundaries. Is this really something I should break off?
Your parents and bishop aren’t overreacting to your decision to date a married man. They’re looking out for your emotional, spiritual, and relational welfare. Please trust their counsel, even though it doesn’t make sense to you right now. I’ll share some thoughts on why I support their position.
First of all, if marriage means something to you, then it needs to mean something to this guy, even if the timing seems inconvenient. He made a commitment to his wife and children that he needs to resolve before he moves on and starts making other commitments. My guess is his wife has no idea that he’s dating. He can tell himself (and you) that it’s just a technicality that he’s still married, but that kind of rationalization should be a red flag as you evaluate his integrity. It’s a really bad idea to begin a marriage with someone who is breaking the rules about the very security and commitment you will depend on for the rest of your life.
After almost twenty years of counseling with individuals and couples, I have heard just about every rationalization for stepping out of marriage to have an affair. In the end, they’re all just excuses to justify selfishness. People who get caught up in emotional and physical affairs believe they are special and that they’re exception to the rule. They believe their feelings are unique and that no one else could possibly understand. These delusions lead to outcomes that are difficult to reverse and only create more pain and disappointment.
I recognize he’s telling you that he’s not interested in staying married and that he will likely be divorced. However, it’s possible there is more going on with his marriage that you don’t understand. He not only needs to finish his process, but he’ll also need some time to adjust to post-divorce life. If he has children, it’s a bad idea for him to immediately introduce you into his life as soon as the papers are signed. If you’re in a hurry to be married, this guy may take longer than you want to be ready for remarriage.
Also, please consider that the long-distance is likely working for him because he can keep you from being discovered. However, the problem is that while you’re on the hook to be in this relationship, you can’t get to know him better in his own environment. You can’t meet his friends, his children, or his family. You’ll continue to remain a mystery to each other under these conditions.
You deserve to be in a relationship with someone who can publicly profess his love and interest for you. As it stands, he’s hiding you from others and, consequently, you have agreed to stay in hiding so it doesn’t reveal his secret. A healthy relationship doesn’t need to be hidden from others.
You don’t want to go into a marriage with regrets or excuses. I strongly recommend you cut off contact with him until he’s not married anymore and ready to begin dating openly. You don’t want to begin a relationship with a lie.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.